Privilege Blog

Under The Influence


Personal style follows the 80/20 rule, i.e., 80% defining and refining, and 20% experimenting. Within that framework, isn’t shopping with friends one of the most comfortable and enjoyable experiments of all?

Most of you probably know the blog, Une Femme d’un Certain Age. I’ve been following Sue for ages, and have met her in person. She’s admirable, professional, and a great writer. Somehow, I can’t say why, I got obsessed with seeing in her in a pair of wide leg pants. So I wrote and suggested a project in which I would dress her (via the Internet bien sûr), and she would do the same for me. For icing on the cake we asked Nancy of Beladora if she would be so kind as loan us jewelry. She said yes with great good cheer.

Shopping with virtual friends, indeed.

In the end, the experience delighted, surprised, and unsettled me a tad. First, here are the links to the clothes Sue sent me to wear. (We both ordered for ourselves, so as to be able to manage returns, etc.)


Even as I stepped into the jeans for the first time, and pulled the jacket closed, my internal voices began to chatter. First, the nay-sayers.

“The jacket lapels are too wide, they will not disguise your shoulders. The shirt has a transparent panel on your belly! ARE YOU CRAZY WOMAN?! And, you KNOW you don’t wear skinny jeans. The shirt isn’t just see-through, it GOES UP where your thighs JUT OUT! Nail in the coffin, my dear, the shirt gaps.” (Yes, my nay-sayers can be loud. I’ve spoken to them but they refused to behave.)

However, some happy voices joined the chorus.

“This Coastal blue is perfect. I need to look for more tops in smoky navy. And Sue really does know her layering! No point in looking for a non-transparent, non-thigh baring top – these proportions are so harmonious that my figure flaws pale in comparison. Wait, I will wear a BLACK BRA so it all looks intentional. And double wait, I LIKE MOTO BOOTS!” Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

Time came for photos.

I asked Sue if she had any ideas for makeup. “Channel Carine Roitfeld,” she said. OK then. Patti Smith, meet Carine. Smoked my eye, nuded my lip, and bent my gray hair every which way.


Then I put on the jewelry Sue and Nancy had chosen. Huge black diamond hoops, corded Tahitian pearl and diamond bracelet, Tahitian pearl and diamond pendant, and a cocktail ring of diamonds, 18K gold, and blackened silver. The voices chittered in debate.


Nay-sayers: “Too many pieces.”
Happy voices: “But the outfit WANTS me to go over the top.”
Nay-sayers: “A fancy modern pearl pendant AND a goth diamond cocktail ring?”
Happy voices: “We’re going for Stylish French Roitfeld meets Iconic American Rocker, are we not?”

The happy voices won. Lesson learned, let happy voices win as often as possible when experimenting.



I headed out in the Golden Hour, following Sue’s practice for her spectacular photos. The outfit seemed to require a gritty setting. I had in mind a San Francisco alleyway fronted by cyclone fencing. Significant Husband graciously agreed to keep me company, and the jewelry safe.

I loved walking up the street. The boots, the hair, the makeup, the whole thing. I felt so cool. I rarely feel cool. I felt powerful. I even felt artistic. Artists don’t care about their thighs, or at least my imaginary artist doesn’t.

The shoot itself was an adventure. The alleyway was already occupied, by Cedric, a street person, and his friends. Significant Husband, a city native, negotiated terms of alleyway usage, as I ran back and forth between the camera and my tripod. I confess to a little fear. And more than a little showmanship. The clothes allowed me.


Cedric approved the photos, even though I declined his suggestion to undo one more button. We went home.

In the weeks since we shot, back in early March, I’ve been thinking. I’m sticking with the 80%, AKA my historical style. I still don’t want to wear wide lapels or skinny jeans. I still don’t want to wear lots of eye makeup. I still don’t want to wear 4 pieces of jewelry together.

At least most of the time.

Because what the 20% taught me is that I play it safe. A lot. There is something about the attention brought by dramatic dressing, and rocker clothes, that demands effort. I don’t roll with being noticed, at least for my clothes, very well.


There are hosts of reasons why. Take the upbringing. High WASPs don’t call attention to themselves – they live by The Creed Of The Appropriate. Add  experience working in male-abundant industries, where attention for looks was generally a problem. To say nothing of who knows what other underlying issues.

But you can learn a lot by pushing limits, particularly when given permission by someone you respect.

Lessons From Sue And Nancy

  • Layering and proportion. If one part of your body is more evident than you prefer, you can balance. For example, balance shoulder volume with skinny legs and a bulky shoe.
  • Color. If color works, explored all shades of it.
  • A true smoky eye has an order of magnitude more impact than the decorous eye-liner I know.
  • Mix jewelry with abandon for special occasions.
  • Style icons have their value.


That’s an attempt to show you the jacket’s subtle coloration.

So I returned all the clothes. Except the jeans, which I am exchanging for a white version of the same pair. I’m game to expand my repertoire, at the margins.

If you’ve been able to restrain yourself this long from going to see what Sue did with what I chose for her, I salute you, and wave as you skedaddle over there. Hint. She’s wearing the same jacket as I, but in peach.


It’s very good to have friends.


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76 Responses

  1. Love it! Sue has conclusively proved that you Can Too Wear Skinny Jeans!
    And you’ve def. both embraced your Inner Divas! ;-)
    IRL, of course, a nude fitted cami could also work under that top — but the black bra is very sassy! Clearly, you’ve been suppressing your Inner Rock Chick for way too long.

  2. You rock. And you look a-freaking-mazing. Fierce in the original sense of the word. Thank you so much for this idea, and for going all out.

  3. Great look. Cedric was right though, one more button would be perfect. Very sexy rocker. I’m stealing the look and wearing it today. Thanks.

  4. Love this experiment. I’ll be looking for ways to expand my comfort zone. And keep the skinny jeans.

  5. I am jumping up and down, I love it, I love it, I love it!
    You look amazing, truly amazing, uber cool and that hair of yours is glorious!

    What a terrific idea this was Lisa.

  6. I did notice the tummy first thing and thought WOW,before I read the post!However,your tummy is very pleasing to the eye.As is your sense of style… can go from one look to another with NO PROBLEMS!Your hair is gorgeous…….and I agree with THE HUSBAND!You could have un-buttoned another.LOOKS LIKE YOU TWO HAD FUN.What a great idea!

  7. LOVE this post, just read Deja’s, I think you two did a fabulous job! I am digging the clothes, the accessories, the smoky eye, and the location of the pictures. What a great idea. I hope you two ladies try this again. And it’s nice to meet you, btw!

  8. “Under the Influence” was exactly what I was thinking. I thought these were lessons from Sid and Nancy. I kept waiting for Harvey Keitel to appear in the next pic. I can hear Patty Smyth belting out ‘People Have the Power’ as you strut about. Love how you embraced this exercise (outside the comfort zone) and rocked it!
    I like what you did with Sue too.

  9. WELL! I am somehow not surprised that you rock this look…there have been hints of it on your blog in the past! And where did you get the idea that broad shoulders were something to be disguised? Clothes look so much better on square shoulders, look at any fashion model! What a great time you and Sue must have had, dreaming this up. I like it all, but especially the skinny jeans, the smokey eye, the more-is-more jewelry and that gorgeous hair!

    P.S.: What did Significant Husband think?

  10. You look fantastic. Great writing, too. It’s all working. If I can only take my eyes off your hair.
    Please, an update on your tresses for us new readers.

  11. I like the jeans with the boots. The jacket was fine. You exaggerate your wide shoulder problem, methinks. Your hair looked okay, too. I didn’t think the makeup did much for you. Smoky eyes and nude lips. Eh. I hated the black bra paired with see-through gaping blouse, but I don’t like that look on anyone. I would have gone with the other blouse.

    White skinny jeans with tunics! Yes!

  12. You should definitely wear skinny jeans more often. This is a terrific look and you wear it beautifully. The ONLY thing I might change is a tad more lip color.

  13. I’m with Cedric – 1 more button undone. But HOT DAMN, you badass. That 6th photo down… You totally rock. I want to channel THAT.

  14. You look fantastic! I love your hair, the jewellery and the proportions really work on you. The only thing I’m not so keen on is the shirt – but I thoroughly agree with you about the 80:20 rule, icons and pushing the limits. Off to check Susan’s blog now. Great idea!

  15. What a fun project! You and Sue are lovely. I especially love the jeans on you; they’ll look great in white.

  16. Thighs? What thighs? Damn, girl! You look HOT! I get that it’s not your thing, but it looks like it was fun…and you learned something about yourself. What more could one ask from one’s clothes? I liken it to dressing me in classy business attire: It might look good, but I’d be uncomfortable as hell.

    I think we should try to challenge ourselves to have open minds when it comes to expanding our wardrobes. A friend might see something in us that we don’t see clearly in ourselves. I encouraged a friend of mine to wear shorter skirts. She had lost a lot of weight and was proud of her new size S figure, but was still dressing it like a matron in dowdy, too large skirts. She felt transformed, her husband loved it, and she took a chance. Win-win!

  17. You look awesome!

    Btw….what’s the waspy term for bad a$$? ( cause you look that too! )


  18. I loved this project and think you and Susan should do it again!!!
    I think skinny jeans are more flattering on you than the wide legged varieties—so there! Like others, I didn’t love the Helmut Lang shirt. I think the Eileen Fisher suggestion might have worked better Great jacket too. Love your hair as always.

    Please do this again! Both of you looked great in these clothes.

  19. Wow! You really rock that look and look fabulous! But then I’m not surprised and I think Sue saw that potential in you. It is good to stretch our boundaries a bit sometimes, Isn’t it? And I think that sometimes you have to go all out just to figure what works and what doesn’t.

    I really like the skinny jeans with the boots, and they do balance the shoulders. That is something you could explore further. I agree that the Eileen Fisher top might have looked better, but it wouldn’t have captured that bad-ass rocker vibe as well as the shirt you wore and I congratulate you on going for it. This was a really fabulous post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  20. … and YOU Missy !!!???
    (kidding, of course)
    You look adorable, but I’d lose the shirt. Lang or no Lang ;)
    So. Much. Fun.

  21. I love this exercise, and I think you look fantastic! Your long hair really completes the look. I would dress like this. In fact, why don’t I?

  22. I LOVE the jeans on you. I also love the jacket. I’m not a huge see-thru fan, but you really rocked that outfit. I am so proud you bought them in white! Although I’d say you should have kept them and got them in white. Good reminder about stepping “outside” our comfort zone.

  23. OMG you look splendid, in charge, and you rock. Like the hair flowing. Love the boots, not so much the shirt. This comment from an old Grandma!!

  24. LOVE the boots, LOVE the Patti Smith energy. I managed to horrify and amuse a law firm marketing team a few years ago by posing in my navy Austin Reed suit and suggesting that I take off the jacket and throw it over one shoulder, a la Patti channeling Old Blue Eyes. It was a noble try. Patti is very special, fierce muse for us all.

    This exercise is kind of like the improv comedy training of dressing. You may not go that far everyday, but by stretching waaaaaay far, now you can comfortably live a little bit more out of the box. Eminently sensible way to do it.

  25. I’m sure this will come as no surprise to you but i love everything about your look and ‘tude.

    of course I do:-)

    Do you have a sister…..

    xo J

  26. Stunning. And no surprise that you remain so!

    I haven’t looked at anyone’s blog in months. Surely glad I decided to click on yours.

    Onward. Indeed.

  27. “The outfit seemed to require a gritty setting” says it all. Not exactly the setting that we are looking for, Sturdy Gal not withstanding. I would have to stand with the nay-sayers, searching, rather desperately for a redeeming feature. If the boots are comfortable, maybe. It didn’t read “Lisa” at all, and yet an interesting experiment for sure. Perhaps you will try this will other bloggers that you follow, as it is sure to be a learning experience.

  28. …And I always comment before reading any of the other comments, so don’t listen to me. This look seems to have it’s fans, and I can only say that in my experience, and to my taste, it doesn’t speak Privilege(d) at all.

  29. I like the clothes, but absolutely not a fan of this look on you. I think it’s great if you’re going to embrace the gray hair–but I think you need a proper haircut/style to soften your look. It’s just too harsh, too severe.

  30. Wow! You need to STOP NOT wearing skinnies this instant– hope you did not send those back. Great look on you and love your hair, too.

  31. When I opened the page, I didn’t know who it was! I didn’t recognize you! Skinny Jeans R U! Also – the top (I wouldn’t dream of wearing a see-through top – but it looks fabulous on you! Same for the jewels. Don’t care for the make up – too harsh. But in toto: WONDERFUL!

  32. Lisa, this look really suits you. Playful and fun and not “trying too hard” but still rebellious. Enjoy that great figure and amazing hair.

    I’d hoped to meet you for a hike before now, but low and behold, out of the blue 2 weeks ago I was diagnosed with a serious brain tumor and had it removed within a day at UCSF. I almost died. I am doing well now with a bit of a battle ahead of me but I have a million things to be grateful for, including no deficits! Life can change on a dime so enjoy your every second and don’t allow yourself to get midlife bored. Just when you think you need a challenge you may be surprised:)

  33. This idea you had to dress one another is so awesome! Before I read Sue had chosen your outfit, I was admiring the heck out of it.

    If it doesn’t sound creepy to say, you have amazing legs! Skinny jeans look fantastic on you. I really like the subtle sexiness of the tunic’s transparent panel and how the sides are high to show off the jeans to their full advantage. And rock your shoulders! I may resent jackets for not letting me lift my arms, but I have learned to love my triangle shape. :D

  34. For the life of me I can’t understand why you don’t like skinny jeans. They were made for you and you look amazing in them! If it’s a comfort thing, wear the ones that come with a little lycra or Spandex. You go, rocker chick!

  35. I do love your hair. I am also growing mine out and it’s about that length. Looks like yours also has a little natural wave to it like mine.

  36. Wonderful post, I love it! You look empowered. Great outfit and I’m guessing somewhat of a departure from your styling. I find doing a real photo shoot, or as real as we all can do, is energizing and really challenging. I truly enjoy making my pictures and I thing it has unlocked an energy I didn’t know I had in me. Growing up as a student of feminist in my art school days, I know modeling would be frowned upon but I do disagree. I feeling fashion blogging is taking your energy in your own hands and generating powerful images of the mature woman. Sometime media, well most of the time, media dismisses us. This our chance to take the power back and state our place in the world of fashion.

    blue hue wonderland

  37. Oh my God, you look AMAZING. Those photos are incredible. Seriously, if you wanted to just be a younger cross of Patti Smith, Helen Mirren, and Carmen Dell’Orefice you could. Wow. Just, wow. RAWWRRRRR, tigress!!

  38. Sue got it so right! This look is really striking and you do it justice. I love the outfit, but it’s really your gorgeous hair that takes it to the next level. Love it all!!

  39. You’d look great in anything, but this outfit doesn’t work for me. The boots and jeans are fine, and the jacket, too, but that shirt shouldn’t be worn by anyone. Your styling for her was fabulous.

  40. You look AMAZING. I think it might be time to veer Arty Cousin more often! (I’d leave transparency to…well, no one…but beyond that – amazing!)

  41. The jewelry, the jeans, boots and jacket are all within my sphere of admiration. The “shirt” with the gaping front, no. Makes you look like a woman out of rehab and not for the first time.

  42. I keep coming back to this post. I guess my problem with it is that you don’t look like you, and I think Sue (who also looks great but, somehow, just not quite right) summed it up in her post:

    ‘the takeaway here is that looking “good” really only bolsters confidence if the clothes and look are aligned with how I see myself’

  43. You look great – Love the AG Stilt jeans and I think they’re a wonderful silhouette on you. Not crazy about the shirt, but you look beautiful. Love, love the bracelet on you as well – and your hair is beyond!

  44. Just wanted to pop back in and comment that looking at pieces online, I had no idea the shirt was *that* transparent. But Lisa is a trooper, and forged ahead. I admire her guts.

  45. Hi there. First timer to your site. I am part of the 40+ crowd. I like your jeans and the biker boots. I also think your hair looks great on you. I, too, am not cutting mine. I have red hair and just can’t see myself in short hair. No law is there, in keeping it long! If you have time to stop by


  46. I love the outfit, it’s daring, but looks amazing on you. I would wear a white button up shirt that is a little less daring in its shape. I think a button up chiffon shirt would look awesome with that outfit. Very bada$$.

  47. I came across your website while looking at something at “une femme d’un certain âge”. I found that website at the Vivienne Files website – I think – when I was looking for pictures on French style.

    Anyway – I think you rock the jeans. Not a fan of the shirt. It seems to tight and sheer for my taste. (I do like tight at times but not sheer for the most part.)

    I am over 50 but I am petite with slim hips and broad shoulders. I tend to look very butch in leather since my build is more boyish from the beginning. I think the leather jacket and boots together is too much black leather.

    It would have been interesting to see you mix it up with other pieces from your closet. I have seen black paired with blush pink and black leather moto jackets paired with floral tops and/or pleated skirts. Description for the shirt does say “sheer” but if it made from cotton lawn that is pretty thin material.

    I remember reading a quote from Diane Vreeland, former Vogue editor, “If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese?” And she was quoting someone else!

  48. I think with the lack of color in the outfit, a colored lip and natural eye might have more “pop”. Love the hair. Your hair gives it a 70s vibe. Would have been cool to a 70s vibe repeated in a boho/miniflower print blouse underneath or somewhere else.

  49. I recently discovered your blog and am loving it! We are the same age, from very different backgrounds but I’m finding much of what you say hits home. Thank you, very enlightening reading!
    Just wanted to comment on your statement in “Under the Influence” about personal style being 80/20….my husband and I discussed this idea and decided it should apply to all of life! 80% defined and refined (by now) but still 20% experimentation.
    And I must add that you look fabulous..not “fabulous for your age” just fabulous period!

  50. I love this look (though I am not a big fan of transparent clothing)…but the jacket, long white top, jeans and boots….I love it and think you pull it off wonderfully! A fun experiment to push the boundaries a bit! :)

  51. WOW! Empowered is the right word! Right after, HOT! (And I rarely use that word unless I’m describing the weather). After spending a LOT of time marvelling how amazing you looked in the Teri Jon feature, I could not set that image aside in my head! In one eye was the very elegant you in new hues, lace and sequins; in the other, THIS! As I begin discarding my “safe” notions of dressing to “blend in” while resorting to various PB “uniforms (Grande Dame, inc. the Vintage 60s/LP rev.), I wd NEVUH have guessed how much I wd LOVE THIS! You look smashing! I picked up a square-sequined, Impressionistic-shaded, SILVER zip-up, blk satin-trimmed jacket at NM (> !55, 75% off) to wear to art exhibitions and concerts during this Season. When I wore it to the Contemporary Art Fair, at first, NO ONE recognized me. After IDing myself, all 7 invariably said something to the effect of, “I didn’t recognize you! You’ve never looked better!” (I have a pic but I’m too shy to post it; my surgery didn’tcorrect my posture & my tummy looks HUGE!) So, a big THANK YOU, Lisa, for showing me how to stretch myself into new frontiers! (Even if it’s only across the aisle to Artsy Cousin!).

  52. Wow !!! Lisa !!! You rocked the entire outfit. You certainly can wear skinny jeans – you have the perfect figure for them .

  53. Absolutely love it-

    I’m comparing this look to the short dress/tights you did a while back with the same boots. That was a good look, but didn’t seem to me your look. I found it a bit jarring. Usually you are so consistent in style. I had to think a long while why. Maybe because it didn’t read elegant “sturdy-gal” to me. I like that look a lot on other women. For you it seemed too girly based on what you’ve shown us before.

    Reading your post after seeing the pictures, I was surprised you saw this as so far out of your comfort zone. I get the see-through shirt maybe (though it absolutely works for you,) What about some kind of long sports bra/ athletic shapewear covering the tummy and tucked in so no visible skin?

    I think this could be your new daily uniform going forward into your 60s and 70s. Love it. It is definitely not a look many could successfully pull off. As others have said: you definitely rock it.

    And if you can get comfortable with the shirt to wear it sheer, go for it!! It really does work and makes a fascinating statement about what women our age can wear. You showed photos of you and your sister in Liberty London sheer shirts with your white bras showing. That wasn’t a deliberate look. This is. Love it the more I think about it.

  54. Very Patti Smith! I think you look awesome (and love how you styled Sue too). I found this a fascinating post in terms of the psychology of what’s involved in getting out of your comfort zone, and that even though you totally rock this outfit you seem to still feel like you wouldn’t be comfortable calling attention to yourself because of your upbringing and having had to work in male heavy industries where that’s generally not the done thing(know all about that!). This is an outfit I’d wear in a heartbeat in London on the weekends. I hope you’ll manage to let this kind of style seep into yours even if it is a little bit – you work it so well.

  55. This is one of the best fashion posts I have read! Your ability to tell the story with such wit, humor an honesty is absolutely entertaining! Your 80/20 rule intriguing to be sure!

    While I have a very different personal style … i.e. big accessory love here … i very much appreciate your style … and even more so your beautiful crafting ability with words!

    Thank you for such a rich fashion read! Off to check out dear Sue’s ensemble.

    Tamera Beardsley

    1. Tamera, Thank you ever so much. It was so fun, and such a learning experience.

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